Saturday, December 20, 2008

Forks on the Road

My favorite part of building frames and forks is getting to see the finished products in use. Sometimes I get to see my work rolling down the road next to me, but more often I just get to see photos. I’ve been receiving photos from distant customers of their installed Frame-Neutral Replacement Forks, so I thought that I would share a few.

These customers share a common story. They all had nicely built, good fitting bikes, outfitted with carefully selected components. They all had tried carrying small-to-moderate loads in a front bag, and were unhappy with the resulting handling of the high-trail steering geometry. Each wanted to obtain a low-trail replacement fork, either as a long term fix, or as an experiment prior to committing to a full new frameset.

Randy rides his Rambouillet (shown below) on all surfaces with 700Cx30 tires. The FNRF was designed with a 62mm offset, yielding about 40mm of trail. This fork has lighting wire guides up the right blade, and separate under-crown mounting points for the fender and the VO randonneur front rack. Matching the original orange pearl paint finish would have been a bit pricey, so this fork was painted in the cream color used for Rivendell’s contrasting head tubes. As the lovely young Maia shows us, the installation was completed with a big front bag, and a nice centerpull brake to handle the new 67mm reach.

Bill recently bought the new Surly Traveler (below), which is the well known Cross Check frame with S&S couplers. He also owns a Kogswell P/R with a 40mm trail fork. While he generally liked the Surly, he found that he really preferred the way that the P/R handled with a front load. Bill decided to modify the Surly with a FNRF with 68mm of offset, which yields about 41mm of trail with his favorite 700Cx33 tires. He also requested an under-crown fender mount, and special through-hole bosses on the fork blades for the Tubus Duo lowrider rack. Bill selected a color from the DuPont paint chip book, and reports a “very close to perfect” color match. The fork carries a Nitto M12 front rack, and Jitensha medium bag.

Orin also rides a Rambouillet, as a randonneur and urban commuter, and wants to carry things in a front bag. His FNRF (shown below) was built with 62mm of offset, yielding about 40mm of trail. He also requested a full set of rack/fender mounts, generator hub up-and-over wire guides, a dedicated light boss low on the left blade, and a switch to a threadless steerer. With the photo, he noted that this light wire previously had been wound tightly around a support, and needs to relax to look neater in the fork’s guides. Although the fork was built to use the VO randonneur front rack, Orin later decided to design and fabricate his own stainless steel rack. This bike already was using a front Tektro R556 long reach (55-73mm) caliper brake, which was able to handle the longer reach on the new fork.

Friday, August 29, 2008

My New Favorite Brake

Several years ago, Shimano’s introduction of a dual-pivot standard reach (47-57mm) brake was well received as a tidy solution for wide(er) tires and lots of clearance. In practice, however, there were some small, but nagging, deficiencies. The quick release didn’t pass tires wider than about 28mm, and the maximum usable brake reach was really about 55mm.

Now comes the Tektro R538 caliper (above), which is a near-perfect implementation of this brake format. The novel long-throw quick release design is wonderful. When adjusted to work with a 19mm wide Mavic Open Pro rim, this release opens up the pads to a generous 33mm of wheel removal clearance. Wider rims yield an even wider opening. This makes a world of difference for users of Shimano brake levers. Couple the R538 caliper with a Campy-style release in the brake levers, and you’ll have clearance to remove any tire that you’d reasonably run underneath this brake.

As a frame builder, I’m excited about the fact that the R538 actually reaches to a full 57mm. I know this may sound a bit silly, but those extra 2mm are meaningful. On a carefully handcrafted frameset intended for standard-reach calipers, I’ll design to use every last millimeter of functional brake reach, and let the owner benefit from the maximum clearance. The photo above shows the R538 over a 700C x 32 Pasela.

I’ve used the Tektro R538 calipers on three bikes recently, and I find that the orbital washers behind the cartridge-style shoes make pad alignment a cinch. The brake’s high quality, graceful styling and lustrous finish compliment a beautiful frame. It’s now my "standard" for standard-reach calipers.

The frame pictured with the brake is Maggie’s new low-trail All-Rounder, built mostly with light weight Dedacciai Zero tubing. The lugs are Nuovo Richie, which are cast with the styling seen below. Once again, color was personal and important, and Maggie selected a gorgeous Medium Iris pearl.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ah ... Spring

It was quite a winter, with a record-setting snowfall, but the “good” bikes with beautiful paint are out on salt-free roads again, competing with the early flowers for a place on the color palette. Soon to be among the brightest is Leslie’s new All-Rounder.

From the start, Leslie was sure about wanting a yellow bike. As usual, there were lots of yellows to choose from, and the selection turned into a group effort as the chip charts appeared at skiers’ social gatherings. In the end, we nudged Leslie towards a finish composed of House of Kolor "Lime Gold Kandy" over a "Lemon Yellow" base, then crossed our fingers that it would look as good as that tiny little chip did. Wow, does it ever! In yet another masterful job by painter Keith Anderson, this finish is stunning. In the sunshine, the candy coat’s gold effect explodes atop the screaming-bright lemon yellow. In the shadows, your eye picks up the faintest hint of the candy coat’s subtle lime hue, but your brain still says “yellow bike”.

This frame needed a generous stand-over clearance, and had to accommodate getting the bars up there with a classic quill stem. I also prefer a minimum head tube length of 120mm with lugged construction. All of this was accomplished easily by designing a 6.3 degree upslope on the top tube, and using the new Mini 6 lugset, which was developed by Darrell McCulloch for just this sort of configuration. The lugs were carved a bit to achieve the style that I wanted for this frame.

Designed primarily for all-surface recreational riding, but with capabilities for light touring, this frame is built from a medium-weight selection of Dedacciai and True Temper tubing. Shown here with 700C x 28 tires, but the standard (57mm) reach calipers will accommodate 32mm tires with fenders, or 35-38mm tires without fenders.

And, being custom, Leslie got her wish for a kickstand mounting plate. This is becoming a trend.